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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Europe and Central Asia


I. Summary

Ireland has a minor, though increasing, role in international drug trafficking and an increasingly serious domestic drug abuse problem. During 1997, the Irish began implementation of narcotics-related legislative changes enacted in 1996.

II. Status of Country

Drug seizures in Ireland or Irish waters indicate some use of the country as a transshipment point to Europe. With a long and relatively unguarded coastline, such traffic is likely to grow. Ireland is not a source of drugs or precursor chemicals nor are Irish financial institutions suspected of being engaged in money laundering.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

Policy Initiatives. After a series of major legislative changes in 1996, Irish counternarcotics institutions, including the newly-created Criminal Asset Seizure Bureau, moved to implement their new powers in 1997. Cooperation among the Garda (police), Naval Service, Customs, and the Revenue Commissioners was improved and expanded as a result of an MOU between the Garda and Revenue Commissioners which established a joint task force in which the Naval Service also participates. Formal liaison positions were also established between the Garda and Customs Service. New legislation in 1997 banned anyone with a drug conviction from obtaining a liquor license or operating an entertainment establishment, and provided police with enhanced and clearer arrest powers.

Accomplishments. Irish police broke up several small indoor growing operations during the year and domestic cannabis cultivation does seem to be increasing. Irish police and Customs cooperated in breaking several major narcotics distribution networks in 1997. However, there is concern that Irish criminals engaged in the drug trade are establishing more complex international contacts and about the involvement of non-Irish criminals in the Irish drug market.

Law Enforcement Efforts. A priority for the Irish Government and the Garda, counternarcotics operations resulted in major seizures of cannabis, cocaine, heroin and psychotropic substances in 1997. A November seizure of cocaine and amphetamines, worth at least $12 million could be, by value, the second largest drug seizure in Irish history. Heroin arrests in 1997 involved interception of couriers carrying drugs with values estimated between $300,000 and $1.5 million. Seizures of heroin in Ireland and the UK in 1996 and 1997 created a shortage of the drug in the first half of the year, driving prices up from $15/gram to $90/gram.

A June cooperative action between Irish and UK officials led to the break-up of a major cannabis smuggling and money laundering ring operating in both countries. Overall, the Irish police scored considerable success against drug gangs operating in Ireland during the year, as reflected in increased arrest rates, falling crime levels, and rising drug prices. In 1997 the Garda posted its first drugs liaison officers overseas--one in Madrid and the other in The Netherlands. In addition, an officer exchange program has been established with the British and Dutch police.

Ireland has actively sought the extradition of persons for drug trafficking, notably from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Signature with the US of bilateral Customs Cooperation (1996) and Taxation Agreements (1997) and the approval of the Europol Bill have increased Irish cooperation and support of international counternarcotics operations.

Agreements and Treaties. Ireland is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Ireland has recent agreements with the US on customs cooperation and taxation. In 1997, the Council of Europe Conventions on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and the Proceeds of Crime also came into effect in Ireland. A 1983 US-Ireland Extradition Treaty is also in effect. Ireland will become chairman of the Dublin Group in 1998 and participates in UNDCP. Ireland provided approximately $225,000 to UNDCP in 1997. Ireland imposes precursor chemical controls in line with the US-EU Agreement on Precursor Chemical Control signed in early 1997 by which Ireland is bound. Operation Dochas, begun in late 1996 to increase police presence on the streets in targeted Dublin neighborhoods and action against street-level drug dealing, continued in 1997 and has greatly improved police-community relations. Ireland is a party to the WCO's International Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance for the Prevention, Investigation, and Repression of Customs Offences "Nairobi Convention" Annex X on Assistance in Narcotics Cases. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Ireland.

Cultivation and Production. Cultivation of narcotics in Ireland has been limited to very small quantities of cannabis. Small, but increasing numbers of marijuana plants have been seized in recent years. Cultivation of cannabis is done indoors, using hydroponic cultivation methods. The Irish police are concerned about the establishment of facilities used to produce psychotropic substances but, since a 1995 incident, have uncovered no evidence to indicate that this has begun. However, there is as yet no clear evidence of drug production in Ireland.

Drug Flow/Transit. Ireland is generally a terminal destination for heroin arriving, via the UK, from southwest Asia. However, cocaine from Latin America and cannabis from North Africa appear to be transiting through Irish waters or, in some cases, overland (after being off-loaded from ships) to continental European destinations with increased frequency. Police report an increased flow of cannabis through The Netherlands in the last half of 1997. Record cocaine seizures in 1996 were not matched in 1997.

Corruption. There is no evidence to suggest drug-related corruption within the Government of Ireland.

Demand Reduction. Demand reduction is pursued through a nationally coordinated interagency process beginning at ministerial level and operating down through regional coordinating committees and local drugs task forces. Education programs are offered in the mass media, schools and social organizations. Rehabilitation programs are the responsibility of health authorities. Waiting lists for treatment are slowly being reduced. While in absolute terms Ireland's drug abuse rates are lower than in many other Western European countries, Irish drug abusers are younger than the European average and abuse rates are still rising. In response, the Government has adopted a coordinated strategy bringing together both educational programs designed to reduce demand and increased funding for treatment and rehabilitation. However, there is still a waiting list for heroin treatment among Dublin's 2,500 registered addicts (out of an estimated 8,000 addicts).

IV. US Policy Initiatives

Bilateral Cooperation. The Garda, Naval Service and Customs all worked closely with US and European counternarcotics agencies in 1997. In one notable case, the Irish worked with DEA on a case involving shipments of small quantities of southwest Asian hashish across the Pacific to the US and Europe. Most notably, Irish officials offered a briefing on a 1995 operation which was of major use in an on-going US investigation. In addition, State/INL funded a two-week Executive Observation Program for 6 key officers of the Garda, Naval Service and Customs which focused on the interagency process at the federal, state and local level in the United States.

The Road Ahead. The US will continue to develop its working relationships with Irish counternarcotics officials and will also seek appropriate opportunities to enhance Irish counternarcotics capabilities. Particularly as the Irish look to closer cooperation in the EU and across the Atlantic, a focus on enhancing Irish skills in international operations is appropriate.


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